Monday, September 22, 2014

Week 1 (Book 4a): Elkanah and Rabbi Meir, Acquiring Wisdom and the Yenuka

STORY OF CHANNAH: 1 Now there was a certain man of Ramathaim-zophim, of the hill-country of Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah, the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite.
PIRKEI AVOT: Rabbi Meir states: Whoever studies Torah for Torah's sake alone, merits many things
PROVERBS: Chapter 1
TZADDIKIM: Rabbi Yisrael son of Rabbi Asher of Stolin known as the "Yenuka"
 
Week 1 is the week of Rosh Hashanah. Tishrei is represented by the Tribe of Ephraim. The verse from the story of Channahis about how Elkanah, the leader of the generation and a prophet in his own right, was from Ephraim.
The verse for this week starts by stating, “Ish Echad,” “one man” – the emphasis is on “one,” just like Rosh Hashanah the focus is on one. Ramathaim-Zophim means the heights that look into the future. Isn’t that what Rosh Hashanah is about?
The Pirkei Avot section for this week begins by stating the name of Rabbi Meir, and the topic of discussion for the remaining sections of the rest of the year: the concept of Torah Lishmah, studying Torah for its own sake, a very high level. Like Elkanah, Rabbi Meir was unique, head and shoulders above every one else in his generation. The statement, “merits many things,” appears almost superfluous. Some commentaries indicate that this refers to physical blessings aside from the spiritual ones listed below. That is the idea of Rosh Hashanah – in as much as it is a spiritual day, it is related to our physical achievements in this world.
Chapter 1 of the Book of Proverbs encompasses many of the basic ideas of learning Torah for its own sake, although the book speaks more in terms of wisdom, acquiring wisdom for its own sake, and for the sake of becoming closer to the Creator:
1. The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel, [are];
2. To know wisdom and discipline, to comprehend words of understanding;
3. To receive the discipline of wisdom, righteousness, justice, and equity;
4. To give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth.
5. Let the wise man hear and increase learning. The understanding man shall acquire wise counsels
6. to understand an allegory and a figure, the words of the wise and their riddles.
7. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and discipline.
This week, on the 2nd of Tishrei, the second day of Rosh Hashanah, it is the yahrzeit of Rabbi Yisroel. the Yenukah of Karlin. More than any other rebbe, the Yenukah represents how the idea of a rebbe is one that is higher than intellect. He became rebbe at the age of five years old.He was a tremendous gaon and tzadik, and his chassidim expressed both love and fear of him. As a few other tzadikim, like Shmuel and Shlomo HaMelech (both of which also came to prominence at a very young age), the Yenuka lived to the age of 52.
Although Karlin-Stolin is in Eastern Europe, the Yenuka is also known as the“Frankforter;” because there is where he passed away and was buried. He specifically asked to buried in the place of his passing, somehow foreseeing its importance. As it turned out, the Yenukah was buried extremely close to another tzadik who passed away on Rosh Hashanah (1st of Tishrei), Rabbi Amnon of Mainz, the author of the prayer uNetaneh Tokef. The following is a description of the events that led to this prayer:
One of the most emotional prayers of the Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur services is the Unetaneh Tokef, recited before the Kedusha of Musaf. Written by Rabbi Amnon of Mainz, Germany, about one thousand years ago, the prayer describes the Yomim Noraim, the High Holy Days, as a time of judgment, where people symbolically pass before Hashem. In the prayer, there is a listing of the possible fates that may befall people, but it also includes an emphasis on Hashem's attribute of forgiveness. To read text of prayer, click here. This is the story behind this stirring prayer:
Rabbi Amnon was famous for his righteousness. The bishop of Mainz heard of the rabbi and wanted to meet him.
Rabbi Amnon and the bishop spoke about religion. Deeply impressed by the rabbi's piety, the bishop was determined that such a good man become his friend and advisor. He also insisted that he leave the Jewish religion and convert to Christianity.
 
At first, the bishop gently argued with Rabbi Amnon, trying to show how his faith was superior to Judaism. Then the bishop tried to bribe Rabbi Amnon with promises of fame and money if he would convert to Catholicism. But Rabbi Amnon remained steadfast. He would never convert.
 
After a while, the bishop became frustrated and started yelling, "You are as stiff-necked as all your people! You can be sure that I will quickly end your stubbornness and make you do as I wish."
 
A few days after this initial meeting, the bishop summoned Rabbi Amnon to his palatial manor and confronted him directly. "Accept my faith," he threatened, "or you will definitely die!"
 
Rabbi Amnon replied, "Give me three days to think about the matter -- then I shall give you my answer."
 
"So be it," the bishop agreed.
 
Rabbi Amnon returned to his home. He put on sackcloth and ashes. He fasted and prayed, distraught at having given the impression that he even considered betraying Hashem. After the three days passed, Rabbi Amnon did not return to the palace. The bishop was furious. He ordered his guards to bring Rabbi Amnon to his palace.
 
The guards hurriedly seized Rabbi Amnon and brought him to the palace. The bishop confronted the rabbi, "Jew, how dare you disobey me? Why have you broken your promise to bring me your answer after three days?"
 
Rabbi Amnon looked up at the bishop. "In a moment of weakness I fell into sin and lied. I made a false promise and defied my faith. I sought the cowardly grace of three days in which to give you my answer. Instead, I should have said, 'Shema Yisroel HashemElohaynu Hashem Eh-chad' ('Hear, O Israel, Hashem is our God, Hashem is One'), and allowed myself to be killed."
 
The bishop was furious. "Your feet disobeyed me by not coming to the palace. For that, they shall be torn from your body."
 
"No," Reb Amnon replied. "My feet should not be torn, but rather my tongue for it betrayed Hashem."
 
"Your tongue has uttered the truth, and therefore will not be punished."
 
The furious bishop ordered Rabbi Amnon's feet to be chopped off, joint by joint. They did the same to his hands. After each amputation R'Amnon was asked if he would convert, and each time he refused. Then the bishop ordered that he be carried home, a maimed and mutilated cripple, together with his amputated parts. A few days later, on Rosh Hashana, Rabbi Amon requested that he be carried to the synagogue.
 
Once there, he asked to be taken to the Ark. Before the congregation recited Kedusha, Rabbi Amnon asked to be allowed to sanctify Hashem's name in the synagogue as he had in the bishop's palace. He recited Unetaneh Tokef and died just as he finished the last words of the prayer.
 
Three days later, Rabbi Amnon appeared in a dream to Reb Klonimus ben (the son of) Meshullam, a great Talmudic and Kabbalistic scholar in Mainz, and taught Reb Klonimus the text ofUnetaneh Tokef and asked him to send it to all the Jewish people to be recited in the Musaf service of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, just before Kedusha. Rabbi Amnon's wish was carried out and the prayer has become an integral part of the Rosh Hashanaand Yom Kippur services.[1]

Other yahrzeits this week include Rabbi Yitzchak-Meir of Kapichnitz (2nd of Tishrei), and (sometimes) Rabbi Yechiel Michil of Zlotchov (the Maggid of Zlotchov, 25th of Elul), Rabbi Shmuel Abba Zikelinsky of Zichlin (26th of Elul), Rabbi Shalom Rokeach (The Sar Shalom, First Belzer Rebbe, 27th of Elul), Rebbetzin Devorah Leah Schneerson (3rd of Tishrei) the Chayei Adam (4th of Tishrei), Rabbi Aryeh Leib of Shpola (the Shpoler Zeide, 6th of Tishrei) and Rebbetzin Chana Schneerson (the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s mother, 6th of Tishrei).

 
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